Free course

Evolution: artificial selection and domestication

Free statement of participation on completion

In the 18th and 19th century evolutionary biologists, including Darwin, emphasised the similarities between natural evolution and artificial 'improvement' of livestock under domestication. They believed that studying domesticated animals and plants could illuminate the mechanisms of natural evolution. This free course, Evolution: artificial selection and domestication, provides an introduction to their work.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • define the terms ‘artificial selection’ and ‘domestication’ and explain the relationship between artificial and natural selection
  • describe some forms of dwarfism in modern breeds of dogs and explain their relationship to dwarfism in humans and in modern and extinct wild mammals
  • describe some features of the skin, fur, feathers and the shape of the head frequently observed in domesticated livestock
  • outline some major conclusions emerging from the sequencing of the dog genome and outline some current theories about when and where dogs were domesticated
  • explain the functional basis of some of the anatomical changes induced by selective breeding of some modern dog breeds.